Christianity 201

July 20, 2016

Indignation in The Disciples, Jesus and Me

Disciples rebuke Jesus

While we’ve mentioned him a lot here, it’s actually been about three years since we actually included some of author Mark Buchanan’s writing. Mark is best known for the books Spiritual Rhythms and The Rest of God. Click the title below to read this at source.

Better Living through Indignation

I’m trying to become more indignant.

And also less so.

It turns out indignation – not its presence or absence, but its cause and its object – is one of the best measures of spiritual health.

Saint Mark, almost back to back in the same chapter, tells two stories about indignation. One story is about the collective indignation of Jesus’ apostles toward two of their own, John and James, when they ask Jesus for elite status in his kingdom – one wants to sit at Jesus’ right hand, the other at his left, when Jesus comes to his throne. “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John” (Mark 10:31).

Indignation – being ticked off, put out, riled up – is typically a sign of sheer pettiness. It’s no more than hissy fit. A melt down. A tantrum. It’s the behavior of a spoiled child. It’s what the small-minded do when they don’t get their way. It’s a symptom of an overfed ego and an undernourished heart. And usually that’s all it is – a rant over some perceived slight or inconvenience.

We see it elsewhere in the Bible: the same disciples are indignant when Mary breaks a jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet, priests and lawyers are indignant when children make too much noise singing in church, synagogue rulers are indignant when Jesus heals on the Sabbath.

And we see it in ourselves: I get angry over a stranger cutting me off in traffic, feel resentment toward a colleague getting recognition I think I deserved, become irritated at a child squalling on a plane.

Sheer pettiness, all of it.

And we might leave it at that, except for the other story Mark tells:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (10:13-16).

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. And it happens more than once. He’s also indignant – the Bible uses a different word, but describes the same emotion – when the Teachers of the Law oppose his healing a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).

The sum of it: Jesus loses his temper with people who try to keep other people from experiencing a touch of God, especially if they are people who lack influence – children, the sick, a woman with a shady past. He waxes angry with anyone who throws up obstacles to someone else’s need and hunger for God. “Do not hinder them” is his watchword.

And what, usually, hinders the child, the sick, the beggar, the woman? Ironically, tragically, it’s the false indignation of the entitled. It’s those of us who try to defend our little patch of turf.

What am I indignant about? That is a penetrating spiritual question. My indignation is too often self-regarding, connected with my lust for winning or my fear of losing. It’s a defense mechanism for my own sense of entitlement. It’s a protective gesture to any threat to my status or privilege. I get indignant over losing out.

Jesus gets indignant – grieved, burning, spoiling for a fight: all that is caught up in this one word – over someone else losing out, especially if it’s someone who has little or no voice being bullied by those who already have enough.

Oh, I long to be indignant like that.

April 14, 2016

Where Do You Go?

Just a few weeks ago we looked at Psalm 1. I may have mentioned before that it’s one of several passages I use when I wake up in the middle of the night and want to empty my thoughts of all other distractions so I can get back to sleep.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The first four lines above form verse 1. In the language of the King James (and a few other versions) we see three different physical postures:

  • walks
  • stands
  • sits

While the language is metaphorical, as I thought about this, it occurred to me that there were three pieces of advice I could take away from this in terms of my relationship to the ungodly:

  • I don’t want to go where they go (the path that sinners tread, NRSV)
  • I don’t want to know what they know (follow their advice, NLT; or their ridiculing of Christ, AMP)
  • I don’t want my life to show what they show (living like sinners, ERV)

I couldn’t help at this point be reminded of a song we sang when I was a child, that was based on John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

We would sing the first sentence of the song twice (adding ‘that’s what Jesus said.’) and then a short bridge:

Without the way there is no going
Without the truth there is no knowing
Without the life there is no showing.

The similarity to me was striking. In the Psalms verse, keeping bad company shows itself in a life by following the wicked (or ungodly, or evil ones, or sinners; various translations); while following Jesus also shows itself in ways we can express in physical action verbs: going, knowing and showing. (Full disclosure: We would sing ‘living’ on the last line, but later on I heard it done with ‘showing’ to complete the rhyme scheme.)

Now in my own life, I don’t physically follow the path of the wicked. My feet don’t take me into places I shouldn’t be. I don’t take the counsel of the wicked.

Or do I?

It occurred to me as I considered this that the physical act of “going where they go” isn’t all this verse is saying to us in 2016, because while we live in the physical world, we spend a lot of our time in the virtual world.

How much of time is spent online, and once there, how much is my values system being shaped by the broader culture?

Too much.

At the Together for the Gospel conference this morning (while I was watching the live stream) one of the speakers spoke about how much of the church’s value system and definition of what’s right and what’s wrong is being shaped by the dominant culture. This is true of the church as a whole, as well as local churches.

By the way, the phrase “standing in the way of…” which the older translations use has shifted in meaning today, where it has more the sense of “standing in someone’s way” i.e. blocking or preventing from what they want to do.

I would argue that today we do actually need to “stand in the way” of sinners, in the sense we need to put our hands up and declare their philosophy and values aren’t welcome in our spiritual community or even in our thoughts. We need to — perhaps even physically — have a sign on our computer that says, “No Access;” which is directed to the forces of this world that desire to control our attitudes and actions.

Some of the best teaching moments Jesus had with his disciples happened while they were “on the way” to some next destination. That’s the way we want to be found in, the way of Jesus.


For all translations of Psalm 1:1, click this link.

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2014

What’s the Opposite of Humility?

If you have read this website for any length of time, you know that I often return to the “hymn” in Philippians 2. The one that begins, “Let this mindset [attitude] be in you that was also found in Christ;” and then goes a few sentences before defining that mindset, “He humbled himself.”

The cross is the place where we changed.
Above all fruit of that change is the fruit of love.
The attitude we then adopt is humility.

So what is the opposite of humility? What is the thing we have to “put off” before we can “put on” a humble, gentle spirit?

If you asked me that question 24 hours ago, I would have said pride. Pride and humility are opposites, right?

But this morning, after starting in Philippians 2, I kept reading to the end, and then decided I should backtrack to chapter 1 so could say I had read the whole book this morning. (Maybe that was pride!!)

Anyway, midway through that chapter I think Paul gives us a clue as to what feeds humility’s counter-attitude. It just so happened I was reading in The Message translation.

15-17 It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

18-21 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

Paul is in prison at this point, hence the reference to “out of the way.” He has apparently gained some popularity at this point and obviously that is enviable to the point where others would like to step into the limelight.  In the above translation they are called “greedy” as having “bad motives.” In the NIV it reads,

17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

adding the extra dimension that perhaps they simply want to cause trouble for Paul while he is not at liberty to respond. Imagine though, someone preaching the gospel, the good news about Jesus to make someone else look bad.

Some of this is human nature. Paul was not part of the original group of apostles that Jesus taught or among the early disciples who were present on the day of Pentecost. As Saul, he greatly opposed the movement Jesus had begun. Then, in a very short period, he becomes Paul the Apostle. Can you see the problem some might have with this?

Sometimes someone new will come into one of our churches and be given a ministry position and the church’s “old guard,” the “elder brothers” can get very irate. I know. I was the new person in a rural church. A woman got up at the annual meeting and asked, “So what’s the deal here? Can anybody just walk in off the street and get a job?” If I had doctrinal quirks or theological errors it might have been a valid question. But clearly, her question wasn’t rooted in that concern, it was rooted in envy. Just a few short months later she left the church.

But I think The Message translation gets more clearly at the humility’s opposite in chapter one, with chapter two in view.

The opposite of humility is ambition.

Being driven, taking proactive steps, or being a type-A personality is not a bad thing. But to be consumed with ambition strikes at the very heart of the humble attitudes we are supposed to reflect.  The Voice translation reflects this in Psalm 75:

There is no one on earth who can raise up another to grant honor,
    not from the east or the west, not from the desert.
There is no one. God is the only One.
God is the only Judge.
    He is the only One who can ruin or redeem a man.

It is God who grants promotions and give raises. We shouldn’t seek these things; we shouldn’t strive to get somewhere that isn’t in God’s plans or not currently in God’s timing.

We can’t even claim that healthy ambition in doing things for God, because there is a flaw if we think we do things for God.  (This becomes especially vital in a church culture where pastors are preoccupied with metrics and church growth.)

Above, verses 18-21 reveal that Paul doesn’t allow himself to get perturbed at whatever motivates such people. As long as the gospel is presented clearly, he actually rejoices. The messenger may be flawed, but the message is what matters. As I replied to a comment last week, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so while we should consider the source, we shouldn’t discount everything the source writes or says.

Right now, even as you read this, there are people using the ministry to build their own empires. Yes, that concerns me, but it doesn’t concern Paul if the message is being clearly transmitted. Of course, in a social media and internet world, everybody knows everybody else’s backstory. That is unfortunate, but it doesn’t minimize the power of the message itself.

Response: God, I know I need to guard my heart. Help me to see things I’m doing for wrong reasons; wrong motives. Help me not to be consumed with ambition.


Previously on C201:

 

 

February 3, 2013

It’s All In Your Perspective

Last week Pete Wilson reported on an insight he had while up in my part of the world, so even though this is shorter, I kinda had to include it here!! Click here to read at Pete’s blog where this was titled, A Breath of Fresh Air.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

A couple months ago I was in Toronto, Canada to speak at a conference. The driver who picked me up from the airport was a middle aged man named Lucas. He was from the Philippines. It’s funny how you can learn so much about a guy by just spending a few minutes in a car with him.

Pete Wilson on Cross Point LiveIn route to the arena we began talking about life and family. He had four children, but was the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters himself. He spoke a little bit about how he made it to Toronto and how much he loved living in Canada.

During the commute we hit a stretch of road where traffic almost came to a complete stop. As we got closer to the bottleneck I realized it was a construction project. While in the middle of small talk with Lucas I couldn’t help but think…. “Stupid traffic. Stupid construction. Will they ever finish all these projects.” However, as we drove through the construction Lucas chimed in with…“Sure is wonderful that the government here has the resources to fix up the roads like this. In the Philippines we didn’t have these kind of resources and the roads are virtually impassable throughout most of the country.”

This is just one of the many scenarios God has used in my life recently to remind me that gratitude really is a choice.

Gratitude is not based on how good your situation is but on how good you see your situation to be.

That’s why someone with half of what you have can be so much more thankful than you.

It is simply true that the person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mind-set and lifestyle can view anything–anything–anything through the eyes of thankfulness. The whole world looks different when we do. And a grateful man or woman will be a breath of fresh air in a world contaminated by bitterness, cynicism, and discontentment.

~Pete Wilson


And now here’s an exclusive bonus item that appeared exactly a year ago at Thinking Out Loud. You may have noticed that the link to Pete Wilson’s article today begins with “Without Wax.” Here’s the 411 on the blog’s original name which doesn’t appear there anymore:

The word sincere comes from the Latin phrase sine cera,which means without wax. The phrase comes from a practice where people would hide the cracks in cheap pottery with wax in order to pass the pottery off as being worth more than it actually was. Quality products were often stamped with the words sine cera to show that it had not been doctored, that it was in fact authentic.

I can’t think of a better name for a blog that is, above all, authentic and transparent. If Pete Wilson is not in your blog reading routine, check out the pastor of Nashville’s Cross Point Church’s blog.

November 11, 2010

Told To Be In The World, Though Not Of It

Today’s post is from Trent Griffith, senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, IN.   It appeared on his blog in March of this year, and is also repeated in the Our Journey devotional booklet this month as the reading for November 17th.   Trent and his wife Andrea served for 15 years as conference speakers with Life Action Ministries.

John 17:16-18 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

“Come quick, Dad! You have to change the radio station. Their singing about dancing naked!” That was the exclamation of my six-year old daughter who recognized our home was being invaded by an influence that was not consistent with the values we hold as family.

The Bible has a very specific name for that influence—“the world.” What is “the world”? It is a prevailing system of beliefs that stands in opposition to the authority and of God and His word, which reduces life to the reason and impulses of the human mind yet fueled by demonic spiritual forces. Jesus used the word eighteen times in his prayer for his followers recorded in John 17. He knew the influence of the world would tempt us to stray into unbelief and disobedience. Knowing this, Jesus prayed for our protection before he departed physically from the earth.

Christians are those who have been called out of the world to live a life distinct from the world. Our values, attitudes, and lifestyle should stand in contrast to the world. We are continually being sanctified (or set apart) from a world that doesn’t understand why we live to please a God we cannot see with our eyes. As we are sanctified by his world we should expect the world to hate us just like it hated Him.

But sanctification is not so much about getting out of the world as much as God getting the world out of us. Jesus specifically says “I do not ask that you take them out of the world.” (John 17:15) In fact, he prays, “I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Why? Those whom Jesus has called out of the world are sent back in for the purpose of calling more out…to be sent back in. There is a cyclical balance to living as a “called out”, “sent in” follower of Jesus.

We are not to be of the world but we are to be in the world. We are to separate, but also penetrate. We to should spend time alone with God but also spend time conversing with godless people about God.

Why does God leave us in the world? He has sent us in to a world to show them that knowing Jesus is more fulfilling and brings more joy than anything the world has to offer…even dancing naked.

• Does the world hate you? If not, why not?
• In what practical ways do you need to separate yourself form the world?
• In what practical ways do you need to embrace the call to be sent in to the world?

– Trent Griffith

Green letter Bible? Occasionally — not every time — on this blog you’ll see scriptures in green. To me it serves as a reminder that God’s word is life!